The “CSI” Effect on the Psychology of Jurors : The Challenges that Pop Culture is Bringing to the Courtroom. James McGrath, JD, MPH Texas Wesleyan University School of Law. Forensic Science. The application of a broad range of sciences to answer legal questions
James McGrath, JD, MPH
Texas Wesleyan University School of Law
The application of a broad range of sciences to answer legal questions
Used for both criminal and civil cases
Dates back to Aristotle
Popularized with the DNA evidence in the OJ Simpson trial
One of the most watched shows in television history
Has several spin off shows all of which are usually in the top spot in their time slot
Different from other crime dramas such as Law and Order because it follows the story more through forensics than it follows people and the court proceedings
Experts have claimed an incidence of the “CSI Effect” in courtrooms
Also from the criminal’s perspective
Increase in crime scenes where the evidence has been tampered with or completely destroyed
Criminal Perspective: Actual Case
Murder Case in Trumbull County, OH
Mother and daughter murdered
Used bleach to wash hands
Covered car interior with blankets preventing transfer
Burned bodies, clothes, and other potential evidence
Attempted to sink remaining evidence in a lake
The best-known definition states that CSI creates unreasonable expectations on the part of jurors, making it more difficult for prosecutors to obtain convictions.
The second definition, which runs contrary to the first, refers to the way that CSI raises the stature of scientific evidence to virtual infallibility, thus making scientific evidence impenetrable.
The final definition focuses on CSI's increasing lay interest in forensics and science. Thus, viewers who serve as jurors will be more interested in and able to follow scientific evidence. They may even become interested in academic training and careers in the forensics field.
"I've seen a big change in jurors and what they expect over the last five years," defense attorney Joseph Levin of Atlantic City, N.J., told a local newspaper. "Jurors can ask questions of the judge while in deliberations, and they're asking about what they see as missing evidence. They want to know where the fingerprints are or the DNA. If it's not there, they want to know why."
Quote from juror “I would have liked more of the kind of evidence I have seen in the cases on ‘CSI’, I just expected more”
Jurors dismissed circumstantial evidence
More often than not, there is little physical evidence linking defendant directly to the crime
Nation of Viewers
Views on Crime
“Reality” Court Shows
Typewriter stolen from frat house
Body found in culvert
Blood in car
Blood on hammer
After finding Leopold’s glasses, both boys are taken into custody.
They have alibis, but the alibis weaken and they tell the truth.
Both are arrested, plead “not guilty” and are to be tried together.
America’s best defense attorney
Well read, well liked
Very anti-death penalty
Darrow walked in and plead “guilty.”
The Alienists were called in to testify about their mental well being.
Darrow’s closing argument took 12 hours, and at the end the judge and 2 jury members were in tears
They were sentenced to 99 years.
The were sent to the Joliet Penitentiary.
Their prison home was “countryclub-esque”
Loeb was murdered in the shower.
Leopold taught other inmates to read, sets up library, volunteers, etc. Released 30 years later.
In a survey of the 500 people in the jury pool, the defense found that about 70% were viewers of CBS' CSI or similar shows such as Court TV's Forensic Files or NBC's Law & Order
In Baltimore for example – less than 10% of homicide cases in the state attorney general’s office in 2004 involved fingerprint or DNA evidence. Evidence more likely to be circumstantial or reliant on eyewitnesses.
Myth 5: The cooperative crime scene
Myth 6: The fully equipped crime lab
Myth 7: Use and availability of some sensors
Acknowledges some errors . . .
Good evening. I'm sorry I don't know the name of the episode but it is the one where the paraglider falls to his death. Anyway, on the part where Marg Helgenberger investigates the guy shot with the .50 cal gun. When she approached the body she said the injury was through and through. There is no way to know that without turning the body over. Also, that entry wound was NOT that large. By the way, I am a general surgeon and I have treated a lot of gunshot wounds. Thank you and good night. Alan W, MD
When Grissom mentions on one episode that "Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider back in the fifties" he was wrong. The first issue of any comic book to feature Spider-man was "Amazing Fantasy #15" which came out in 1963. Hayward Simpson.
Some people now look forward to jury duty
Better sense of investigations
Popularized investigatory science programs
Shifting demographics in forensics field
Not terribly well designed (IMHO)
Do not show the complained of effect
If anything, point to the opposite effect
In Arizona, Illinois and California, prosecutors now use "negative evidence witnesses" to try to assure jurors that it is not unusual for real crime-scene investigators to fail to find DNA, fingerprints and other evidence at crime scenes.
In Massachusetts, prosecutors have begun to ask judges for permission to question prospective jurors about their TV-watching habits. Several states already allow that.